Dog Grooming Tips: How to Clean a Dog’s Ears Step-by-step

Dog grooming tips: how to clean a dog's ears

Dog’s ears collect dirt and without proper care this can result in smelly ears or painful ear infections. The dark, warm and moist conditions within the ear provides the ideal breeding environment for fleas, mites, and yeast infections, which can go unnoticed under the flap of the ear. Consequently, it is very important to clean your dog’s ears regularly and to check for any sign of parasites or infection. You need to ensure that your pet’s ears are kept free of moisture and that wax doesn’t build up within the ear to provide the conditions favorable for parasites and infections. Inspect the ears for dirt buildup, parasites, cuts and abrasions, or any sign of swelling. If there is an odor or discharge coming from the ear your dog may have an ear infection, which will need to be treated.

How to Make Ear-cleaning a Good Experience for your Dog

A dog’s ears are extremely sensitive – some more so than others. If your dog is not used to having its ears cleaned, it may try to pull away or jerk it’s head in the middle of the process. Before attempting to clean your dog’s ears you will need to desensitize it to your touch by getting it accustomed to you holding and touching the ears. Start by gently touching and stroking the outside ear until he is relaxed; then lift up the ear flap and gently touch inside the flap of the ear without probing too deep. Once your dog is accustomed to your touch you can begin the ear-cleaning process by following the steps outlined below.

Grooming Equipment and Supplies Needed for Ear-cleaning

Before you begin the process of cleaning your pet’s ears, make sure you have all the necessary supplies and equipment on hand so that you won’t have to leave your pet unattended while you go and fetch an item you need. This will ensure that the ear-cleaning process progresses quickly and smoothly, and will minimize stress for your dog. In the event that you need to leave your pet unattended while you fetch something you need, make sure there is nothing stuck inside his ear that can damage his ears or ear drums should he shake his head or break loose.

You will need the following items:

  • Dog ear-cleaning solution (Otic Ear Solution)
  • Cotton Balls
  • Dog Ear Wipes or Ear Cleaning Pads
  • Ear Medication (if ear is infected)

Handling Difficult Dogs

Cleaning a dog’s ears is a relatively simple procedure that just requires a steady hand and a little care. If your dog is new to the whole ear-cleaning experience, it may be better to have someone on hand to assist you by holding his head still while you clean his ears. Get your assistant to stand on the opposite side of the grooming table to you if possible, holding the dog firmly by placing one arm around the dog’s neck, holding it under the jaw, with the other hand firmly placed on its butt, forcing him to sit still. If your dog is extremely boisterous, it may help if you take him for a walk or throw a ball for him beforehand to tire him out a bit, as a tired dog is less likely to put up a fight.

Dog grooming tips: anatomy of a dog's ear

When cleaning a dog’s ears, to prevent damaging the ear drum take care not to probe too deep into the ear canal.

How to Clean a Dog’s Ears: Step-by-Step

  1. Place your dog on the grooming table and get him to sit. Hold his head gently but firmly lifting the ear flap on one ear. Ensure that the lighting is good so that you can get a good view of the inside of the ear.
  2. Insert a few drops of ear-cleaning solution into the outer ear canal, then massage the outside of the ear canal gently to ensure the solution is evenly distributed within the ear canal. You dog may then wish to shake his head – let him do so, then wipe away any excess moisture with a cotton ball.
  3. Take a clean cotton ball, ear wipe or cotton swab and gently remove dirt and gunk from the inner ear flaps and ear canal. Work slowly and steadily, don’t rush. Replace the cotton ball, ear wipe or swab with a clean one once it becomes fouled. Take care not to probe or poke too deeply within the ear as you could damage the ear drum. Ensure that you dry the internal ears thoroughly as moisture remaining within the ear canal can cause an ear infection.
  4. Should you see any wounds or caked dried blood, or if there is a foul-smelling discharge coming from the ear, gently clean the affected ear and treat with ear medication. Keep an eye on the ear and if it doesn’t improve within a few days you may need to seek veterinary advice. Dark red clumps of dirt and/or excessive buildup of wax within the ear may be an indication that your dog has ear mites; if you suspect this may be the case treat with an off-the-shelf ear mite treatment or consult your veterinarian.
  5. You can also clean the outside of the ear using a clean dog ear wipe or cotton swab moistened with water. Gently wipe away any dirt, debris or wax that has accumulated on the outer ear flap.
  6. Repeat the above steps with the other ear.

Final Ear-Cleaning Tips

Once you have successfully cleaned your dog’s ears, shower him with praise or give him a dog treat or food reward as positive reinforcement for being such a good dog. This will help him associate ear-cleaning as a positive experience that is something to look forward to in future.

Ear-Cleaning Schedule

Dogs vary with respect to their ear-cleaning demands. Some dogs only need a quick ear check and wipe clean every month or so, while others need to have their ears checked and cleaned weekly. Large-eared breeds, such as bassets and spaniels, typically require more frequent ear-cleaning than short-eared breeds. Check your dog’s ears as part of its general grooming routine, and clean them if necessary.

Watch the video below to let a vet walk you through the process of how to clean a dog’s ears.

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